Stacy Braiuca, MSW, MPH, LCSW, LSCSW, A.T. Still University-College of Graduate Health Studies (ATSU-CGHS) adjunct professor, public health, presented Tuesday in the National Primary Care Week series. The presentation focused on “The Silent Pandemic: COVID-19 and Mental Health” and broke down various concerns many people are dealing with amidst the current pandemic.
Braiuca discussed how enhanced emotions of fear, loneliness, anxiety, and depression have impacted each level from mental health policy and licensure, challenges and changes in the grief process, and the role of the caregiver.
“COVID has increased our emotions of fear, fear of the disease, fear of leaving our house. It’s a constant microstressor of fear,” she said.
During this time, it is important to have a heightened awareness of people who might be at higher risk of depression, not just patients or clients, but also colleagues, family, and friends in your circle.
“I think the long-term mental health impacts of 2020 are going to be something we are going to see farther in the future,” Braiuca said. “Right now, we have the acute impacts, but I think we are going to see some greater impacts of mental health in the future.”
While 2020 has brought an onslaught of challenges and changes that many were not prepared for, Braiuca can see a positive outcome as a result of the silent pandemic that is occurring on the mental health front.
“It’s OK to ask for help. I think the biggest message we can give to anyone is it’s OK to ask for help. We are all going through major stressors,” Braiuca said. “Maybe a positive outcome of COVID and having lived through this, is going to impact the mental health stigma. Maybe we can finally get people to understand it’s OK to ask for help because we are all in the middle of stressors.”
While there is an increase in stress, we are reminded to check in on people. Schedule virtual activities, like a game night. Find ways to be social, even from a distance. And when things start to feel overwhelming, Braiuca said to give yourself grace.
“Something I think we don’t do nearly enough of is giving ourselves grace. Know that it is OK for us to ask for help, maybe take a nap, or take a break.”